SWGfL launching ‘tech for good’ platform for victims of online abuse

28 Jul 2022 UK SIC

SWGfL, a partner in the UK Safer Internet Centre, is launching a ground breaking tech driven platform Minerva, making it easier for victims of online abuse to get support.

Minerva will provide victims with more control in how they make reports, while ensuring confidentiality, as well as identifying patterns in behaviour which assists in signposting the victim to the correct resources and help.

Latest research, carried out by the University of Suffolk, has underlined the need for such a platform following a study into the impacts and different forms of online abuse which negatively affects victim’s ability to safely navigate online and offline experiences. The research included responses from 148 women with lived experience of online abuse and 58 professionals working in the field. It identified the gaps in support and current available reporting options. 

The study’s findings revealed that anxiety, stress and panic attacks, feeling isolated and suicidal feelings, as well as the ‘silencing effect’, were among the negative effects experienced by women who have been targeted by online abuse.

Online Abuse Research

One out of four women never report the abuse to anybody, while close to half indicated they reported the abuse to friends or family.

Respondents reported a range of online abuse with the most common being receiving, unwanted sexual messages (61%), while cyberstalking was reported by 44% respondents and 36% reported unwanted violent and pornographic content.

Research fellow Megan Hermolle and Dr Katherine Allen, who work collaboratively as part of the Trauma, Injustice, Violence and Abuse (TIVA) research team at the Institute of Social Justice and Crime, led the study.

Dr Katherine Allen said: “We know online and technology-facilitated abuse of women is widespread in the UK, yet we found a dearth of technical interventions to tackle it.”

The findings from the University of Suffolk also found that online harm often correlates to offline harm.

Dr Allen added: “Understanding the prevalence and range of behaviours which endanger women led to our recommendations for Minerva. Ultimately, the hope is this “tech for good” platform can flag to patterns of abuse, and offer signposting to specialist services, supporting women regain control and move forward with their lives.”

Minerva – A New Reporting Platform

Minerva will importantly eliminate the need for victims to find different avenues of support, relating to various incidents of abuse, which can be time-consuming and ultimately discouraging for those who need immediate support. Minerva will signpost victims of abuse to supportive services; including the Revenge Porn Helpline, StopNCII.org, Report Harmful Content.

Sophie Mortimer, Revenge Porn Helpline manager at SWGfL said: “The idea for Minerva came from wanting to provide a one-stop platform for getting information and advice, reporting content and collecting evidence that would be available 24 hours a day. Given that the internet crosses borders and time zones, we needed something as flexible, accessible and responsive as this tool.”

“This new platform is about using tech positively as one of the solutions to the complexity of abusive behaviours. A digital platform can help remove barriers. It offers a safe digital space, which can help combat shame, the fear of being disbelieved, or judged, and other potential human biases,” she added.

Minerva is being developed by SWGfL in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and funded by the Tampon Tax Fund. It is due to be released in 2023. For more information, please visit the SWGfL website.

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